AZ COVID-19 numbers are improving, but the pandemic isn't over yet

By Katherine Davis-Young
Published: Wednesday, September 21, 2022 - 2:36pm
Updated: Wednesday, September 21, 2022 - 5:55pm

Arizona COVID trends
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The red line is the 7-day moving average of COVID-19 cases in Arizona reported to the CDC

Arizona’s COVID-19 numbers continue to show signs of improvement, but public health experts say the virus still poses a threat. 

Caseloads have dropped off from the summer peak. The Arizona Department of Health Services reported 3,999 cases in its weekly update Wednesday. In July, the state had been reporting 15,000 to 20,000 cases per week. 

The state’s test positivity rate is also now the lowest it’s been since early May, at 10%. Hospitalizations are down too, with only about 2% of the state’s ICU beds occupied by COVID-19 patients, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

But more than 10 Arizonans per day have still been dying from COVID-19. The state reported 82 COVID-19 deaths this week. Many public health experts say it's too soon to declare the pandemic over. 

"There’s no question that COVID-19 remains a state, national, and global problem," Don Herrington, interim director of the state health department, wrote in a blog post this week. "The impacts have been far less as of late, thanks in large part to widespread vaccination, but people continue to be hospitalized and die from COVID-19, particularly those who are older. Long COVID remains a concern for all ages." 

But Dr. Nick Staab, epidemiologist with the Maricopa County Department of Public Health, told KJZZ's The Show he's optimistic that the pandemic is continuing to move in the right direction.

“Once we kind of see what that usual pattern is and once we can kind of plan and predict COVID surges better, that’s when it’s endemic, that’s when we can really kind of move on," Staab said. 

Staab said vaccines are still the most important tool to keeping the virus under control. A new COVID-19 booster that targets the omicron variant is available now for Arizonans 12 and older.

“There is a simple recommendation that everyone 12 and older get this new booster. So we’re really trying to encourage people now, before the fall and winter respiratory virus season, to get out there and get both your flu and COVID boosters," Staab said. 

Arizona has seen a sizable increase in demand for vaccine doses since new boosters became available at the beginning of this month. About four times as many Arizonans had a vaccine last week compared to two weeks prior, according to state health department data.